27 November 2012

BSF 2012-2013: Genesis 12:1-13:4

God asks a lot of us as believers. He often asks us to step out in faith and trust that His plan is best. This is what happened to Abram.

God called Abram to pack up and move, to leave everything and everyone familiar and to go to an unknown life in an unknown place. Abram responded to this unknown plan by obediently moving out and then worshipping God. How would I respond in this challenging situation?

Along with this command to move, God made seven promises to Abram (12:2-3).

Abram's obedience demonstrates that Christians must be separate from the world. What separation needs to happen in my life?

Am I willing to give up everything like Abram did, to separate myself in obedience to God? Am I willing to give up my plans so He can work His plans?

Once Abram, Sarai and their entire crew arrived in the land of Canaan, Abram saw that the land was full of Canaanites. They were a wicked and pagan group of people. What did Abram think of these people? Was he surprised to see people settled in "his" land?

God never promises a life without obstacles! But He promises His presence. God appeared to Abram again and promised that the land would belong to his offspring. Then Abram explored the land and built an altar to God.

Abram acted by faith on God's commands and then experienced His character (mercy, grace, love, protection, etc.). The result of seeing God's character was worship.

Am I waiting for specific details before moving out in faith in some area in my life? God wants me to move when He opens a door and shows me where to go. When I move forward, I will see God’s character and then I should worship Him for who He is. True faith believes God then steps out in faith.

After Abram demonstrated his obedience, God then tested him. But Abram was not unique in this. All Christians should expect their faith to be tested. It is a way of life, a part of our growing and stretching in the Christian life. These tests benefit us and others who are watching us.

A famine hit the land. Abram went to Egypt to provide for his family. But he was concerned that the Egyptians would take Sarai and kill him. So he told Sarai to lie and say she was his sister. This was partially true because Sarai was Abram's half-sister. But it is evident that Abram concocted this plan to deceive the Egyptians.

Sarai was taken to Pharaoh. Abram’s life was spared, and he was prosperous. But soon Pharaoh confronted Abram about his sin. Pharaoh sent Abram, Sarai and all of his possessions out of Egypt. What did Abram do? He returned to the southern region of Canaan. There he called on the name of the Lord at the first altar he built.

Abram failed the test because he didn't trust in God’s power. He got his eyes off God. He leaned on the world’s wisdom and his own plan. But he eventually recognized his mistake. He repented of his sins and returned to God and His promises.

Abram shows us that we should embrace God's plan for our lives.

Do I turn to God whenever my faith is tested?

How am I responding in faith to God’s commands? What are the results?

How am I stepping out in faith?

What test currently is stretching my faith? Will I respond by trusting God?

This week, Avery's verse focused on the first command Abram received:

The Lord said...“go to the land I will show you.”
Genesis 12:1 NIV

24 November 2012

30 for 30

Today is my birthday. It's not just any birthday. It's my 35th birthday. That means I'm halfway through my 30s. Ugh. I can't believe I'm that old.

Five years ago, I made a list of 30 things I'd like to accomplish in my 30s. Since I'm feeling a little nostalgic tonight, I'll recap the things I've accomplished on that list and the things I haven't:

  1. Visit Lucille Ball’s hometown (Jamestown, N.Y.) – Not yet! But this definitely is still at the top of my list.
  2. Go on a second honeymoon cruise with Chris – Completed in 2010.
  3. Find a job I love at a place where I love to work – Completed in 2010. And I'm happy to say that I still feel the same way today!
  4. Have two children – Half of this was accomplished when our sweet Avery entered our lives in 2009. The other half...well, who knows if that will happen!
  5. Scrapbook our “every day” life – I completed Ali Edwards' Week in the Life challenge in 2011, which definitely helped me document our every day life. But I'm trying to be better about this all of the time. I want Avery to see what life was like at this stage of her life.
  6. Proudly cheer for Chris at basketball and soccer state tournament games – Completed every year! I'm always so proud to be Chris' cheering section at games.
  7. Buy a “fancy” camera – Completed in 2008 just before Avery was born.
  8. Take a photography class – I completed an online course in 2010. But it only inspired me to take more classes and learn more about my camera!
  9. Go to at least one Steven Curtis Chapman concert – Completed in 2008.
  10. “Graduate” from BSF – Completed in 2011. But since BSF will add another study soon, I guess I'm not an official graduate yet!
  11. Continue to make our new house our home – Completed every year! Since I made this list, we have decorated Avery’s nursery, put new flooring in the laundry room, remodeled the main bathroom and completed several minor projects.
  12. Participate in more Bible studies at church – BSF takes up so much of my time, that I haven't been able to participate in Bible studies at church like I want to.
  13. Volunteer in new ministries at church – In progress. We are blessed to volunteer once a month in Bibleopolis, our church's children's ministry.
  14. Submit at least one scrapbook page for publication in a magazine – To do
  15. Attend a basketball game with Chris at IU’s Assembly Hall – Completed in 2008.
  16. Lose 10 pounds – Instead of losing weight, I've gained a little. So now I need to lose more than 10 pounds!
  17. Start (and maintain) a blog – Completed in 2008. And thanks to you, dear reader, I've been pretty good at maintaining this blog!
  18. Go to one tennis grand slam – Still a lifelong dream.
  19. Learn how to be a better cook – You'll have to ask Chris if I've improved in this area!
  20. Improve my gravy for Chris’ favorite meal, biscuits and sausage gravy – I think I finally completed this in 2011, but it's always a work in progress.
  21. Beat Chris at tennis, XBox, Trivial Pursuit…anything! – Completed in 2008. I beat Chris in miniature golf while on a vacation in Florida. Booyah!
  22. Make basketball career scrapbook and a soccer career scrapbook for Chris – I want to make more time for all kinds of scrapbooking, especially a book just for Chris.
  23. Attend a St. Louis Cardinals game at the new Busch Stadium – To do
  24. Attend any event at the new Lucas Oil Stadium – Completed in 2011 when I humbly watched my Ball State Cardinals whoop on Chris' IU Hoosiers.
  25. Hear Beth Moore speak in person – To do
  26. Watch all 179 “I Love Lucy” episodes…again! – Believe it or not, I haven't done this yet!
  27. Decorate and organize my scrapbook room – Completed in 2008.
  28. See Third Day in concert – Completed in 2008.
  29. Attend a marriage conference with Chris – To do
  30. Complete Donald Davidson’s Indy 500 History class – To do
Thank goodness I have five more years to mark the rest of these things off my list!

20 November 2012

BSF 2012-2013: Introduction to the life of Abraham

In our study, we've now reached the beginning of the story of Abraham. He is one of the great patriarchs of the Christian faith. We'll spend the next several weeks discussing his life, which includes plenty of mountaintop and valley experiences.

Abraham (first known as Abram) was a great leader of the faith. He was the physical father of the Jewish nation. He also is the spiritual father of those who have faith in Christ, whether Jew or Gentile.

Abraham's life demonstrates that our faith affects the pivotal decisions in our lives. We all face pivotal moments in our lives, but we don't always respond as God wants us to. Abraham inspires us to evaluate our own life journeys and to determine if we are where God wants us to be.

God told Abram to go to a place He would show him. He told Abram to walk away from everything of the world and follow him. God's call interrupted Abram's life. But he immediately obeyed God in faith. Then God revealed His plan to Abram, little by little.

It's the same for us today. God usually doesn't reveal His entire plan for our lives at one time. Instead, He reveals Himself in the Bible and shows us His purpose for our lives, little by little. Am I allowing God to lead me in the direction He has set for my life, even when I have countless concerns and questions?

After calling Abram, God promised him many blessings. He also promised that his path wasn't going to be easy, including suffering for his descendants. But Abram experienced tremendous spiritual growth through many pivotal moments in his life. (We'll examine these in detail over the next few weeks.) Abram believed God when he didn't have any tangible evidence of God's promises. He trusted God when it didn't make sense. He never wavered in his faith.

He didn't waver because he focused on God's character. He had faith; he believed in the unseen promises of God.

Abram was called, he believed and he grew in his faith. But it didn't end there. He also influenced others. He invested in the people around him. He first believed in the promises of God for himself, then he passed them on to others. God calls us to the same sequence: belief, growth and investing in others.

Abram never stopped trusting God, even when faced with the hard things in life. He never gave up. Why? He was persuaded that God is God. He knew God had the power to do what He promised.

Am I choosing to grow in my faith, even in the hard circumstances? How am I moving my faith forward in my life? How am I deliberately investing in the next generation for God?
Get ready to study an amazing example in the Christian faith!

And...are you obeying the command in Avery's memory verse this week?

"Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God."
Deuteronomy 8:11

13 November 2012

BSF 2012-2013: Genesis 10-11:1-9

Genesis chapters 10 and 11 are a turning point in the story of humanity. Chapters 1 to 11 are the wide-angle view of the beginning of the world. Chapters 12 to 50 move the focus to one family chosen by God to carry His message of salvation to the world.

The beginning of chapter 11 shows the people joining together to build a tower in rebellion against God. At this time, the people shared one language. They also blatantly ignored God's command to fill the earth (Genesis 9:1). Instead of doing this, they chose to build a tower to heaven. The tower wasn't the problem. Instead, the problem was their building blocks of rebellion, selfishness and opposition. They desired fame and power. They wanted to control their own lives.

Today we also build towers. We defy authority, seek man's praise and try to take control away from God. What tower am I building? How am I showing that I think I don't need God? Where am I seeking to glorify myself instead of God? Which of my plans do I need to give back to God and get on track with His plans? What does God think of these towers?

God didn't let the people continue with their rebellious plan. He came down to earth to correct the situation. In fact, God the Trinity was present in the correction (Genesis 11:7). He confused the people's languages. God knew that one language made it easier for the people to be defiant and to work together against Him. He confused their languages so they couldn't understand each other, and He scattered the people over the face of the earth, which was His ultimate plan.

We can see two wills of God at work today:

  • The permissive will of God – He allows us to make choices, but His hand always is involved in our circumstances.
  • The absolute will of God – He will not let His plan get off track.

And somehow, the permissive will of God and the absolute will of God work together.

God is the righteous judge. He is sovereign. He never lets His plan get derailed. Nothing can stop God's plan or purpose from coming to pass. He always is in control of everything.

What do we do when we struggle with God's sovereignty? Trust Him. Focus on His character. Share God and His Word with others. Pray for God's will to go forward, even if it means pain and suffering for us. Stand on His promises in Scripture.

And believe that God has a plan. Remember that He is sovereign. He orchestrates details to be sure His plan moves forward. To quote my teaching leader in her lecture, "There is no power, no force greater than God." No man, no nation, no government is greater than God.

Chapter 10 is a verbal map of the people's expansion that came as a result of the Tower of Babel. God had a plan to repopulate the earth, and man couldn't stop God's plan. God did what He said He would do. No one can derail God's plan.

Finally, Avery did a great job with a difficult verse this week!

"Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life."
Genesis 9:15

06 November 2012

BSF 2012-2013: Genesis 8:20-9:29

Noah and his family spent more than a year in the ark. When they left the ark, they saw a world that had changed dramatically. After experiencing a year full of God's grace and mercy, a humble Noah built an altar to worship God for His character, protection and provision.

On the altar, Noah sacrificed an animal. God accepted the offering. It pleased Him because Noah gave the offering obediently. We don't know which worship and offering instructions God gave Noah, but it's apparent that he must have received some direction from God.

After this, God made the first promise in the Bible:
"Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done." Genesis 8:21
Notice that God made the promise to Himself ("in His heart" in 8:21).

Then God gave some commands (such as be fruitful, eat plants and animals) and some restrictions (such as do not eat meat with blood in it, do not murder).

God gives laws for correct living. His standards are clearly defined for us in Scripture. But we must read the Bible to know how to live correctly. How comforting to know that we always can find the truth in the Bible!

Then God made His first covenant with man. This covenant or agreement was given to Noah, his descendants (which includes us today) and every living creature:
"I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth." Genesis 9:11
This is an unconditional covenant. That means God will do this regardless of our obedience, or lack thereof. This covenant is dependent on God alone, not on us.

The symbol of this covenant and God's promise is the rainbow. According to 9:16, the rainbow is a reminder to both God and us. If a rainbow is so beautiful for us, imagine what God must see from heaven!

The rainbow is an assurance of God's promise. We can depend on God's promises because they are guaranteed by His character.

For every storm, there is a rainbow of promise. Find a promise that fits with your current storm. Claim it. Memorize it. Believe it.

My challenge right now is being a mommy to a stubborn but sweet 3-year-old girl. The promises I'm claiming in this situation right now are:
"Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it." Proverbs 22:6
"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." Galatians 6:9
From the high point of God giving the rainbow to demonstrate His character and mercy, we move to a low point of sin. Noah sinned by getting drunk and lying naked in his tent. Noah's son Ham sinned by somehow ridiculing or disrespecting Noah in his sinful state. Noah's other sons Shem and Japheth covered their father's body without looking at him. This situation proves that sin was not completely eradicated with the flood. It also shows that no one is immune from sin, even the righteous Noah.

Our choices influence those around us. How are my choices affecting others?

And here's Avery!

"But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord."
Genesis 6:8

03 November 2012

Trick-or-treating with Tinker Bell

This year we thought Avery was old enough to try trick-or-treating. A few days before Halloween, we explained the concept and rehearsed. I stayed in a bedroom with the door closed. Then Avery knocked on the door. When I opened it, she said, "Trick or treat!" I pretended to give her candy, and she said, "Thank you! Happy Halloween!" Hey...a kid can never be too prepared, right?

She was very excited for the real deal this week. Too bad it was such a cold night. We decided to use the wagon and bundle her up with one of Daddy's IU blankets. She stayed relatively warm in between houses. We visited about 10 or 12 houses in our neighborhood before it got dark.

If she had dressed up like Cinderella, this could have been her carriage.

She was always ready to get out of the wagon and go up to the door.

She knew just what to do. And she patiently waited for the homeowners to bring the candy. She politely said, "Thank you," no matter what they put in her bag.

Mommy and Daddy took turns going to the houses with her. She was so brave, and every time she loudly said, "Trick or treat!" She's normally a little shy, so I was proud of her. Well, I guess the candy helped!

02 November 2012

Meeting Obadiah

This summer, my cousin David and his wife welcomed their first child into the world. The three of them are in town this week, so it gave us a chance to meet Obadiah for the first time. (In case you don't know my cousin, I'll tell you that Obadiah is the spitting image of David when he was a baby!)

Avery was very excited to hold Obadiah, although she didn't really know what she was getting herself into. She wasn't expecting him to cry!

Here, she's ready for someone to take him away.

Now she's practically shoving him off her lap and saying, "Take him, Mommy!"

My mom made these holiday sweatshirts for the kids. Then she requested a group picture. We managed to get a pretty good one. But you won't understand what it took to get three squirmy kids to sit still until you see these outtakes:

Obadiah is the only calm and patient one. That won't last very long!

He was such a good boy that I took a few more pictures of him after Avery and Joel had enough of the photo session.

All night, Avery kept Kim company while she fed Obadiah. Avery pulled up a rocking chair, grabbed and baby and started soothing the baby by rocking and patting her. It's always fun to watch her playing with her babies.

Two months is a long time to wait to see David, Kim and Obadiah again. We'll get some more cuddle time with Obadiah at Christmas!